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Stable Electricity Prices are Good News for Energy Managers

March 21, 2013 By Linda Hardesty

Three speakers at an Energy Manager Today webinar this week offered help for energy managers, including predictions about electricity prices, tips on energy audits and information about using thermal storage to manage energy loads.

In the last couple of years, the abundant supply of natural gas has stabilized the price of electricity, and that’s projected to continue into the foreseeable future, according to Andrew Weissman, senior energy advisor with Haynes and Boone, who presented in the “From the Boiler Room to the Boardroom” webinar.

In addition, storage capacity has also increased in recent years, helping to stabilize electricity prices.

“We’ve had an phenomenal explosion of supplies of natural gas and also of underground storage capacity,” said Weissman. “The problem of the last decade has been completely eliminated. That problem of supply lagging demand just doesn’t exist anymore. Now, even in the coldest winter, we’re not going to run out of natural gas.”

The price of natural gas can be fairly accurately predicted at this point, affecting the predictability of related electricity prices, as well. Asked if managers should lock in electricity prices for future years at today’s rates, Weissman said, “I would be inclined to wait a short time. If the current rally has been somewhat overdone, we should see prices dip somewhat over the next couple of months.”

Anthony Spera, national director of sales for energy services, ConEdison Solutions, talked about energy audits. He said a comprehensive audit should take into account all types of energy at a facility, and that facility operators should begin with at least one full year’s worth of utility bills and energy data, but optimally three years of data to see energy-usage trends.

When presented with the audit results, energy managers shouldn’t take offense at uncovered problems. “Most problems that you see from inefficient energy practices aren’t from mistakes building managers are making,” said Spera. “It tends to be years of history of operational issues that led to where you’re at today. The auditors aren’t trying to point a finger at you.”

Finally, Guy Frankenfield, manager with TES & Biofuel Tanks DN Tanks, explained how chilled water storage tanks act as thermal energy storage units for companies to manage their electricity loads.

For example, in Texas the wind often blows more at night, generating wind power at a time when it’s least needed by most companies. But that energy can chill water during off-peak periods, which can then be stored for peak periods. Large commercial or industrial facilities can utilize a chilled water plant. Cold water in that system is pumped out to the facility, it provides cooling and comes back to be used again. Chillers are typically on during off-peak periods, said Frankenfield.

The “From the Boiler Room to the Boardroom” webinar is available on demand.



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